@Stripe’d

Recently, I decided to join Stripe full-time to help shape and hack on the support team. I’ve actually been working with Stripe since February doing part-time support in the Campfire chat, and even before then in a completely unofficial role as a user and community advocate.

As I also have meld with my mom, I’ve historically been against the thought of joining another company in a full-time capacity, even if I got to continue working on meld. But there’s something really special about Stripe, and I felt it from the moment I first got my beta invite.

When I started using Stripe, my mom and I were just launching an entirely rethought version of meld (then, QR Card Us). Everything was going smoothly (especially when you factor in no sleep for 48 hours—but that’s a post for a different time), but a larger client found our site and was interested for the whole company. There was only one problem: the form wouldn’t generate his card token.

Okay, there were actually two problems: the form wouldn’t generate his card token and I couldn’t reproduce. He was extremely patient (you know who you are—thanks!), but I had to get this fixed. Not knowing what else to do, I blindly emailed support@stripe.com with the customer’s IP address in hopes that they could help pinpoint the problem by verifying whether or not they were receiving his create token request.

What I got back was so much more. Greg Brockman promptly wrote me, not only giving insight into their logs, but actually going to my website, sifting through JavaScript that was completely separate from their end, and helping to point out potential problem areas.

Thanks to Stripe, I was able to find the issue and get the client promptly signed up.

This is not an isolated incident, nor just a matter of Greg being an exception to the rule. Continuing to ask Stripe for pointers along the way, I found myself witnessing a recurring theme: they were, quite simply put, fantastic people.

Thanks to Stripe, I quickly found myself with a whole team of people behind what was really just a 2-person startup.

Many companies claim they care about their customers, but are prompt to levy heavy taxes and curt responses instead. Stripe was different. They surpassed what I had ever expected from a team; even as a total stranger, they actually cared about what was best for me.

In a situation like this, there’s really only one good way to respond: I started hanging around the Campfire room to pay it forward when possible, and I took to the tubes of the Internets to defend Stripe and raise my flag in favor of them. Stripe was not just a product I wanted to recommend, but a group of people I wanted to introduce.

So when Stripe and I started talking about making my role more official, and I gave it some thought, I realized how much of a no brainer it really was. There is no other company that I’d have even considered this for, but Stripe was and is clearly a creative, morals-driven team that truly cares more about the person than the bottom line.

Now that I’m at Stripe, I’m going to work hard to continue this even as we keep growing and becoming synonymous with accepting payments online. If you even just want to say hi, email us at support@stripe.com or come hang out with us on Campfire.

I hope this is never the case, but if you ever feel that we’re not meeting this, please know that you are welcome to email me directly at michael@stripe.com. I also wouldn’t mind hearing from you for any other reason, too :-)

The people behind Stripe are as crazy as you’d expect from a group choosing to turn the entire concept of accepting payments online on its head by actually making it simple and really caring about the customer. If you think you’re just as crazy, come change how payments are done with us.

Mom, Friend, & Co-Founder

At a dinner recently, I was asked what it’s like to be co-founders with my mom. It was such a fantastic question that it’s been on my mind since then, so I wanted to put my thoughts into writing.

Paul Graham notes friendship as an important quality in founders, and I can’t agree more. I’m proud to say that my mom is one of my best friends, which is why we are able to work so well together.

Like Paul mentions, “startups do to the relationship between the founders what a dog does to a sock: if it can be pulled apart, it will be.” But, even at the lowest times in startup life, the thought of damaging my friendship with my mom outweighs any bad. There are certainly times that we disagree, but we have always had an understanding going into any discussion that there’s some separation between personal and work life. We’ll argue, pause to have a peaceful dinner together with my dad, and pick up where we left off. Remembering the importance of family and friends is key to maintaining sanity in a startup.

Looking at ourselves as not just mom and son, but also best friends, grants us the opportunity to have complete respect for one another (in traditional relationships I’ve seen, respect unfortunately flows only in one direction). I know the areas in which she’s more knowledgeable, where her life experience is most applicable, and she knows the same for me; so, we can ask each other anything, disagree with what the other has to say, and speak our thoughts freely without offending one another.

Relatedly, this open dialog leads to a higher level of understanding each other. When I need help or am uncomfortable with a situation, I don’t even need to say a thing - she almost always knows and is able to lend a hand.

Paul writes in another essay that “you need colleagues…to cheer you up when things go wrong.” Things do go wrong, but my mom is one of the reasons I’m navigating startup life in the first place. Certainly, we want to improve the world, but I would be lying if I said that improving my family’s life wasn’t also a goal. If I’m having a bad day, all I have to do is see my mom working alongside me and it instantly gives me the right perspective and cheers me up. I think the opposite is true, too.

Overall, it’s fantastic having the opportunity to work with my mom. Given the opportunity again, I would—without hesitation—want her to be my co-founder.

NoDaddy In Review (& How I Trolled Back)

Background

I’m sure anyone reading this is aware of SOPA and PIPA by now. At the end of December 2011, the Internet came out in complaint that GoDaddy, a popular but controversial registrar and webhost, supported SOPA.

Enter NoDaddy:

As Drew Olanoff of The Next Web [writes](http://thenextweb.com/insider/2011/12/23/nodaddy-lets-you-pledge-to-boycott-go-daddy-for-its-stance-on-sopa/], he “was talking to Ben Huh and Ben suggested in jest that someone come up with a counter to track everyone who is pledging to leave Go Daddy.” So, I opened a new desktop, my favorite editor, and got started.

The setup was easy because I already had a sandbox in place called Rawr, where I host things like my @episod Tracker, so all I had to do was add a new Django app. The goal was to make the page as simple as possible, so I gave a brief background, a pledge form, and a total count of customers that GoDaddy stood to lose by their support of SOPA.

To drive home that these are real people that GoDaddy was hurting, there was also a random selection (inclusion optional) of people’s profile pictures from Gravatar.

Trolls?

Drew requested in his post that I add a domain count so that people could optionally include the number of domains that they pledged to transfer from GoDaddy. This was a great idea because, for some companies, numbers are necessary to call them to action, and this would certainly help convey economic incentive. However, I was worried that people would troll this by inputting large, false amounts, which would invalidate the overall message.

Still, the audience was limited enough and driven by a common cause, and it was indeed a good idea, so I decided to give it a shot and added the domain count. People that had already pledged could resubmit the form using their same email address and it would update the domain count without inflating the total number of customers.

Although it was difficult to be certain if someone padded their input at all, I paid close attention to the pledges and for the most part–and frankly, to my surprise–everyone was quite honest. Unfortunately, by the close of the night, I did have one fairly dedicated troll. Thankfully, this troll was extremely consistent in using the same large input number, so deleting became easy (albeit irritating since it was getting late).

By the next morning, after waking up to delete their overnight troll, I had an idea.

Troll Back

The only (fun) way to fight trolls is to troll back, and it’s important to be subtle lest they find a workaround. So, I modified the pledge code so that if the domain count was over what I considered to be a reasonable threshold I would set a cookie in their browser representing the number of domains they pledged. With support for multiple pledges (in case they tried many email addresses), they would see the results of their trolling, but no one else would.

This method was amazingly effective as I noticed no trolls slipping through. My only regret is that I didn’t separately track the submissions that were marked as a troll (they were never saved to the database). I would love to know just how many attempts I trapped.

Spoils

Although I didn’t keep track of all trapped trolls, I did find one little gem on Twitter: a tweet (picture too!) by Carter Cole about his successful trolling of the afternoon wherein he pledged to transfer 10 billion domains.

The setup was successful, though. Carter seemed to be proud of his accomplishment, but it never made it to anyone else’s screen and therefore didn’t hurt the integrity of NoDaddy’s message.

Conclusion

Overall, I am extremely proud of the pledge site. I’m thankful to Ben and Drew for the idea because it helped unite those against GoDaddy and show a common, strong force. I am also impressed by and thankful to the community for their mature response: I only noticed a handful of abuses out of 658 total pledges, and they were dealt with swiftly to minimize impact.

Thank you everyone for helping make NoDaddy successful and working with me in battling back SOPA and any company that supports such legislation.

TechCrunch: A Better Image Gallery

TechCrunch somewhat recently redesigned their website. While I actually enjoy the new design, I dislike the fact that you can’t easily go through images in an image gallery.

So, I’m scratching my own itch here and releasing a user script to fix that. It makes it so that you can click on an image and see it full-size above, plus it provides handy previous/next buttons for going through the entire gallery. All without popping back and forth from page to page.

The code is commented and on GitHub, so you can easily see what’s going on behind the scenes. It’s a bit rough around the edges in some aspects, but I think it works well for this case.

Installation

To install this, all you need to do is grab the user script.

Google Chrome will support this by default. For other browsers, you will need a user script extension:

Note that I’ve only tried this on Google Chrome and Firefox. Your mileage may vary. If you find issues, please let me know I’ll update accordingly.

Usage

To use, once it’s installed, simply visit a TechCrunch post and click on an image in the gallery. A preview will show up above the gallery and you can cycle through the images using the << Prev and Next >> links.

You can test it on this Ice Cream Sandwich post.

Contributing

Like I mentioned, it’s open source and on GitHub, so if you see something you want added, either let me know (information in README on GitHub) or, better yet, send a pull request my way.

Conclusion

I hope everyone enjoys! I know I’m looking forward now to seeing more images in TC posts.